Skip sent me an email in the early afternoon asking if I was going. I had no idea what he was talking about so of course I said I was. My wife asked what I was going to wear. It was a good question.
Like an embarrassed school boy I was dropped off around the corner. I stepped onto the curb, brushed crushed Cheerios off my jacket, and blew kisses to the kids in the backseat. I could hear the timing belt squeal as they pulled off, back into traffic. I’d been to the Commonwealth Proper showroom before but I had never met the man who answered the bell. He smiled but the look on his face showed he had never met me either. He offered me a drink, I accepted a bottle of water.
Skip smiled with an easy, “there he is!” reaching out his right hand and putting me a little more at ease. There was music playing but the room felt quiet as I made the rounds shaking everyone’s hands and hearing their names. I had never heard of nor met any of them before and I assume it was reciprocal, except Sabir. I knew Sabir via a previous email exchange and failed attempt to meet. He extended his hand, smiled at me sideways, and froze waiting for me to acknowledge we were familiar. He looked like the type of guy who only has two expressions, smiling or Blue Steel. Tonight was all smiles.
Conversations quickly resumed and just as quickly I forgot all the names I had just been told. I looked around and saw a tweed jacket with ticket pocket and horn rimmed glasses, Black Watch jacket paired with blue polka dotted tie and jeans topped off with a tuft of curly red hair, a chambray shirt untucked with jeans and tennis shoes, then the guy in a blue suit tie bar under pastel plaid tie and two toned wingtips all accented by the neck tattoo creeping up above the collar toward his turquoise ear disks. Sabir was wearing double monks with an aqua jacket that had functioning buttons on the cuff. Skip was telling another guy with a tweed jacket and blue pocket square that he looked like Commissioner Gordon. He was right, the guy did. Everyone was slim and fitted, appearing put together. I had come to see more than be seen but at my size the latter is unavoidable. How I appeared is, to me, an absolute mystery.
There was little to no critiquing of each other’s clothing, nor any visible reactions to anyone’s appearance. There was a brief but attentive discussion about the American preference for natural shoulders in which I participated. I did so not to offer anything useful to the dialogue but more to experience talking about clothing in male company without being thought strange or having my masculinity questioned. I guess the others there would see nothing unique about such talk, which like not knowing their names, made me wonder if this was where I belonged. It is difficult to be self aware in completely new environments but being self aware and self assured are not the same thing. I have heard the best way to jump out of an airplane is without thinking about it too much and I have decided to approach my social inexperience in much the same way. I packed my parachute with great care years ago so I know I will land safely. For now I will just experience flying, or falling with style.
As the night progressed from Whiskey to some concoction of wine and moonshine that came in faux milk bottles, talk drifted from Wales being the armpit of Europe to fighting bums while wasted. A question about the origin of Sabir’s jacket led to talk of the difficulty in finding fitted jackets for slim chested men. “Why do you think I wear bespoke,” came a sincere exclamation, soon followed by the same phrase repeated minus the sincerity. The room erupted in laughter, the butt of the joke included, and the deliverer of the punch line raised his arms in victory, thanked the crowd for their applause, and promptly left the party. This was my first time witnessing a perfectly executed Costanza and I was impressed. Some people came and went, the conversation ebbed and flowed, and I hung around iPhone in hand.Skip is a good man and I now know whose company I was in. They are menswear bloggers and good guys. I’m now back in my comfort zone where I have the time and resources to learn everyone’s names though its a bit too late for that to matter.